The New Landscape of Time-Management in Virtual Learning

Exactly one year ago this month, we started an adventure that would become the STEEPEST learning curve of our lives…

We launched a hybrid secondary school. 

Prophetically, eight months before the world would be flipped upside down, we flipped ourselves upside down!

In February, 2020, we finally paused for a moment to catch our breath and ask ourselves some questions:

  • “What do we need to do next fall?”
  • “What did we not know that we did not know?”
  • “How can we NEVER do this to ourselves, again?!”

We never imagined that the entire world will soon be sharing those same questions! So, we have been working non-stop since spring to develop tools to support this new landscape of virtual learning, taking cues from many lessons learned the hard way! 

The Invisible Dynamics of Time-Management for Virtual Learning

We’ve been working on a “virtual learning” companion to our study skills chapter, Schedule Time to Take Action  (aka: “time and task-management”). 

Developing this content took 4X longer  than I expected! Time-management for virtual/hybrid learning is way, way, WAY more layered and nuanced than I realized…

…even after a full year of in-the-trenches hybrid experience under my belt,

…even after 20 years as a “time-management and productivity” expert,

… I was still surprised by the number of hidden layers to be uncovered! The landscape has changed and it is paved with invisible roadblocks!

The Complexity of Simplification 

Our development approach for learning and organizing strategies is to identify every. single. little. step. involved in a process… and remove as many of them as possible. This includes ruthlessly identifying and eliminating every turn-of-a-page, every press-of-a-button, every unnecessary written word, etc.

We even created a model to facilitate this process. We call it The Brain Circuit; we use it to map every little function our brains must manage for every strategy. Then, we attempt to eliminate as many of those steps as possible. 

One example is how we transformed the traditional method of putting homework away from 22 steps on the Brain Circuit, down to only five steps!

This is what we do. 

We are the 5-Star Energy Savers of learning and organizing. 

We hate wasted effort… save that energy for more fruitful endeavors!

But when it comes to time-management for virtual learning, the landscape is radically more complex. Despite our ruthless focus on simplification, what takes approx 20 minutes to teach for “traditional, in-person” learning takes two hours for virtual learning. (We advise students to play videos at 1.5X to better match their listening comprehension rate, soo… make that 90 minutes.) 

Ultimately, this is NOT a bad thing. After all, these time-management skills will serve students for a lifetime!

But this is a STEEP learning curve!



Adults never get explicit instruction in this area… they are left to fumble for themselves and develop patch-work systems to hold their lives together. Some people are more natural at it than others, but the lack of instruction and plethora of patch-work systems are why employers consistently rank “lack of time-management skills” among one of their greatest sources of frustration.

Can Students REALLY Do This?

Yes. Yes, they can.

I am a firm believer that students of all ages can –and will– rise to any worthy challenge. They simply need to:

  1. Understand the purpose of the challenge. If they don’t think it is worth their time, they won’t waste their effort.

  2. Receive support that effectively “meets them where they are,” then scaffolds them to where they need to be. If we can connect to what they currently know and how they currently think, we can guide them to the ends of the Earth!

The best way to accomplish #2 is to make all invisible elements of a situation and/or process, VISIBLE. The more visible things are, the faster students (and humans of all ages) learn.

Students need to see their time. They need to see all they need to do. They need to know how to most efficiently find what they need to do and then gracefully blend those tasks into their daily schedule.

They need tools for these processes and they must learn how to effectively use those tools.

They also need TIME to properly set up their calendars, organize their digital files, clean out their email inboxes (FOR REAL) and really establish a firm footing on this new foundation. These layers must be in place before content learning can be effective.

For Better & for Worse, Students Must Now Assume More Responsibility for Their Own Learning!

It’s not really “worse” because, I mean… “more responsibility for their own learning” is the ultimate goal, right?

It’s only “worse” when we don’t give them the structure they need to be successful with the process. 

It’s only “worse” if we don’t acknowledge this process as a valuable -in fact, the MOST valuable- part of the learning experience.

NOTHING will prepare them for life in the “real world” more than this transition to virtual/hybrid learning!

The question is, will we give them the time, tools, and support they need to comfortably adapt to these new expectations? 

Will we give OURSELVES the permission and patience to back away from “content learning” long enough for students to effectively master “process learning?”

For Better & for Worse, Teachers’ Roles Are Shifting, Too!

In the pressure-cooker of the moment, this transition likely feels extremely uncomfortable

“Not fair!” (To teachers and to students. And to parents!) 

But if we can take a step back,

If we can elevate our perspective,

If we can reflect back to what drew us into this profession… we might reconnect with our long-lost, idealistic visions of how we had hoped to connect with students, how we pictured our hand on a shoulder (literally or figuratively) coaching, gently correcting, and ultimately ENCOURAGING young people to become the best version of themselves!

Disguised beneath the mask of a fear-filled pandemic is a pending transformation that can make that vision a reality, if we are open to the opportunity.

It starts with seeing the opportunities.

It continues with self-permission for trial-and-error, alongside our students.

It includes explicit instruction, time, and support to make the previously invisible, VISIBLE.

Then… it will surpass our wildest expectations!

If you’re ready to make the “invisible dynamic of time-management,” visible, we’re here to help!  We can guide you to explore the curriculum (for a sneak peek, click HERE), arrange for a trial, schedule a brief call, provide a quote, or all the above.  Simply reply to this email with any questions or requests you have.



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